Friday, January 4

Top 20 Indie Retro Games on Nintendo Switch



[Last Updated: 12/6/19] Retro games are near and dear to my heart because they’re generally either remasters or reinventions of classic titles or even modern games with sensibilities and style that fit that time. For me they’re a sort of portal to the past and while generally this sort of title wouldn’t be a great mainstream-friendly option for major publishers they’re perfect for indie developers and publishers. The following is a list of titles that scratch that retro itch the best on the platform.

Horizon Chase Turbo - Oh, to go back to the arcades, hearing the sound of quarters being dispensed from the bill changer, and diving into some classic gaming fun. Horizon Chase Turbo is a love letter to arcade racing greats like OutRun (a personal favorite) but it delivers so much more than that. With its smart pick-ups on the tracks, some great hidden unlocked cars, and more content than I ever would have imagined it's not a nostalgia cash-in, it's a celebration of classic arcade racing that will have you entertained and challenged for many hours if you want to find it all. One of my Top 10 Indie Games of 2018, this is a retro racing gem!


Miles & Kilo - While sharing quite a bit of DNA with last year's cute retro runner Kid Tripp, Miles & Kilo really refined and nailed things down to produce a satisfying experience worthy of inclusion on this list. Cute, challenging, and well-paced the alternating between the more traditional platforming when playing as Miles and the then it becoming a runner when Kilo is pulling him along keeps things fresh and fun throughout its relatively modest runtime.


Killer Queen Black - After having heard so much about this killer multiplayer arcade title I was interested to see what the fuss was all about. While the core of the game is ultimately reliant on playing with as many as 7 other people (4 to a side) in this case the developers have gone the extra mile to ensure it can be played across platforms so availability shouldn’t be as much of an issue as we sometimes see with Switch-exclusive multiplayer titles. One note is that there’s definitely a learning curve, and thankfully there are a multitude of offline tutorials that try to break everything down from the multiple paths to victory, to what roles people can play, to simply learning how to follow what’s going on since things tend to get hectic. While it may feel a bit on the simpler side, depending on your taste, this is a game that just about anyone should be able to pick up and get in to and it absolutely offers up a both a co-op and competitive multiplayer experience that nothing out there can rival.


Star Wars Pinball - If you’re either a massive Star Wars or pinball fan you can stop reading the review now and just buy this… rest assured, they’ve got you covered. Falling into the category of maximum, bordering on preposterous, effort, Star Wars Pinball isn’t just a few random tables. It’s an outright collection right out of the gate and represents an amazing value with 19 tables spanning the movies (including the more recent one-shots, for better or worse), TV shows (though, sadly, no Holiday Special), and even popular characters. Rather than phoning it in with relatively generic table layouts and throwing in sound bites to accentuate the action the folks behind the game have made a real investment in trying to imbue each table with unique character, many of them taking full advantage of the virtual nature of the game to concoct tables that wouldn’t be practical (or even possible) in a physical form. That does likely mean that not everyone will love every table but at the same time I applaud the effort and it really does make the depth of the total package remarkable. Throw in a Career mode that tries to include some elements of variety with objectives and challenges to complete and this is a great example of a game package swinging for the fences to deliver the full value of its price of admission.


Pinball FX3 - Since the base game hit the eShop, the periodic release of new table packs has kept this retro gaming engine very relevant ever since. In particular, the acquisition of the rights to produce tables based on the classic pinballs from Williams should make every retro gaming fan very happy. Already having released 2 packs from that agreement, as well as a few notable original packs of their own, Pinball FX3 will likely handily stay on yearly lists for quite some time.


Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King - Perhaps a little less gaining inspiration from the classic top-down Zelda titles like Link to the Past than copying it outright, Blossom Tales is an excellent game to help hold you over until the Virtual Console arrives. Cleverly playing out as a grandfather tells his granddaughters a story about a brave hero, Lilly, the focus is on taking most of the classic Zelda weaponry and then adding some more unique items of its own if you're willing to search them out. Thoroughly satisfying for the price of admission, Blossom Tales plays like a "lost" Nintendo title.


Marble It Up! - I'm a massive fan of the arcade classic Marble Madness as well as a fan of Sega's Monkey Ball games so Marble It Up! was a lot of fun to check out this year. While it may not have loads of content the degree of challenge will probably keep less hardcore gamers from conquering it all too quickly. Throw in some diabolical hidden secrets that take some serious work to obtain and it's a very unusual type of game that controls well and is a lot of fun to play.


Fight ’N Rage - After many years where the classic beat-em-up wasn’t getting much representation indie developers have really begun to rejuvenate the genre. While there have been a variety of takes on things, adhering almost too much to the old formula to shaking things up significantly, Fight’N Rage shows a great deal of reverence for the classic feel of titles like Final Fight without copying it too much, and throws in some great combos and variety that helps keep the fighting feel a bit less stale. That’s already a pretty tempting package for brawler fans but then, best of all, it comes in at a very fair price, has multiple characters who each have their own feel, and features loads of unlocks to help you refine the aesthetics for a little more fun. A great beat-em-up well worth your time!


Pig Eat Ball - When a game comes along that has classic arcade-style sensibilities and it is just plain weird it is pretty well sure to get my attention. On both fronts Pig Eat Ball delivers, with an oddball experience and a ton of levels that are reminiscent of classics like Pac-Man but with a weirdo take and a bit more strategy involved. You see, the issue is that as you consume more balls you’ll continue to get more rotund, which can then restrict you from getting around. The solution? Throw them back up, of course. This makes for some entertainment as well as quite a bit of strategy as you try to complete the level objectives as quickly as possible yet for the most part your available skills are limited. Where the fun really kicks into gear is with the game’s sheer variety of settings and variations of levels, you really never can know quite what to expect, and that’s what really put the experience over the top for me.


SNK 40th Anniversary Collection - If you're a big fan of classic arcade games you've probably heard of or even get nostalgic for a fair number of games featured in this collection. From the iconic shooters in the Ikari Warriors series to unique titles like Athena and Vanguard vintage arcade gaming is well-represented. On the classic console side the inclusion of Crystalis should excite as well. Wrap that all up with a chronology of press materials and facts about the company and its games over the years and it's a package retro lovers should appreciate.


Blaster Master Zero 2 - Determined not to let itself get in a rut and become too predictable, Zero 2 is a rewarding walk through nostalgia while not being content to limit itself to dated design and mechanics. While not all of the new planets and challenges you encounter may be to your liking, to the game’s credit they change things up with enough regularity that any disappointments aren’t likely to last long and you’ll likely feel better about what’s around the corner. If you’ve got a soft spot in your heart for the original, or have just been looking for a diverse and well-crafted retro-style challenge, it is a satisfying adventure.


Chiki-Chiki Boxy Pro Wrestling - While I haven’t played a wrestling game in years, back in the day it was fun to throw down with some buddies for some arcade-style mat action. Boxy Pro Wrestling is a pretty big love letter to those days and that style of play, keeping things pretty simple but still offering up variety and a fun wrestler customization mode. The core button presses may be the same for every wrestler but what you execute can vary quite a bit. As you get further through the circuits you’ll unlock not only new core wrestlers to play with but also currency, aesthetic elements, and moves that will allow you to create a wrestler to work with that not only suits your sense of flair but your fighting style as well. While it isn’t terribly deep and may not be as much fun to play solo, if you’ve got some friends to play with locally or matchmaking remains viable for online play, this can be a pretty fun time for a reasonable price.


Super Crate Box - It’s always very cool to encounter games that have simple designs and very few rules but then manage to be so well-implemented that they suck up your time. Super Crate Box is such a game, one that I was introduced to at PAX and that I was eager to spend more time with on release. At its core this is an arcade platform shooter where your goal is to survive and beat your highest score, the trick is that shooting enemies doesn’t move that needle, only picking up new crates advances your score. The hitch? You never know what weapon that will give you. It could be relatively weak sauce weapons you’ll struggle to hold enemies at bay with, it could be something powerful that you may want to keep long enough to help get the situation under control, or it could be a weapon like the Disc Gun that represents as much of a threat to you as your enemies. Throw in an endless flow of bad guys and a relentless pace and this is one of the best pick-up-and-put-down budget titles on the Switch, offering you a quick hit of action that consistently delivers a challenge that feels great for a single playthrough or perhaps a string of an hour or more if you’re determined to get further than you have before.


Duck Game - As long as you’re able to find people to play with whether locally or online Duck Game one of the best multiplayer experiences you’ll find on the system. It’s diverse, deep, has many times the volume of content you’ll find in any of its competitors, and it maintains a brisk pace whether in the match or loading the next stage. While some AI ducks to fill in gaps or quack against would help provide a little extra longevity or fun when you’re on the go, there’s still no denying that Duck Game is at the top of the Switch multiplayer food chain.


Super Hydorah - While inspired by the classics like R-Type and Gradius, Super Hydorah has a great feel and style all its own. You're able to choose your path at specific branches, though there's nothing stopping you from backtracking to grab more enhancements. You'll then need to carefully consider your loadout for each stage since each has their own challenges and there's no single solution that best addresses them all. A great mixture of retro play and modern sensibilities.


Dragon’s Lair Trilogy - Dirk the Daring and Dexter are back, and bringing their reference-quality classic arcade laserdisc gameplay to the Switch. While not everyone may be a fan of the somewhat stilted play that results from the way these games worked there’s no denying that the ability to virtually play a feature-quality cartoon was pretty cool. Both Dragon’s Lair and its sequel as well as the very different Space Ace are represented in all of their glory and even lacking the trademark pauses you used to experience as the next clip was loading.


Blazing Chrome - As a huge fan of the classic arcade run n’ gun shooters I hold Contra in very high regard, so it’s always a thrill when someone manages to put out a title that can give it a run for its money. While there have been some titles that have nailed the retro look of this iconic series most have come up a bit short in the feel department, never quite capturing the level of difficulty, variety, and hard core gunning action that made it legendary. Armed with a variety of weapons and crucial power-ups you’ll be hard pressed to get through to the end as you’ll need to overcome swarms of enemies, some tricky traversals, and tough bosses. However, if you’ve been thirsting for something that kicks you down and makes you keep coming back for more this title absolutely delivers.


Hyper Sentinel - With the heart of a game pulled from the 80s but production values and visual enhancements that help give it modern flair Hyper Sentinel is a load of fun. Inspired quite a bit by the classic shooter Uridium you'll be attacking a large ship and trying to take it down while fighting off it's defenses, working to rack up combos and maximize your score.


The Adventures of Elena Temple - Retro games can be really challenging to get "just right", somehow toeing the line between being true to vintage gameplay and being trapped by it. With platforming action that took me back to my Atari 5200 and Commodore 64 days Elena Temple managed to be a nostalgic rush but also, aside from its pixel graphics looks, managed to feel at home as a modern game as well. With a bite-sized length to match its budget price this is a game any retro fan should thoroughly enjoy.


Pang Adventures - Doing a remake or remaster for a classic game can be a tough task. Fail to respect the original sufficiently and the purists will begin squawking loudly. Fail to innovate and you’ll get hit by another camp. Being successful means finding a balance of the needs of both sides and Pang Adventures does this admirably. There’s no mistaking this is all about popping bubbles classic Pang style but whether solo or with a friend there’s enough new stuff here to keep retro gaming fans happy and challenged for a little bit.

This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!